When I heard that, I thought, how is that possible? The tree, the decorations, the party, the presents (!) – what is there not to like about that night?
Further probing brought an interesting answer. It’s not actually the evening that my son dreads; it’s what the end of the night signifies. When the presents are packed up, and the food is put away, and the kids are back home in their own beds for the night, that’s when the realization sinks in. The sadness that it’s another whole long year until we get to celebrate again.
And then I remembered feeling the exact same way when I was a kid. It was too agonizingly long a wait until the next time I got to put on a costume, or hang up a wreath, or blow out my candles. My mother always told me to wait and see, I wouldn’t believe how quickly time began to fly when I got older. And of course, I pooh-poohed that idea. How could time – or our sense of it - shift so dramatically?
Well, here I am, some years later, and of course she was absolutely right. (See that? Moms are always right. At least that’s what I tell my two kids.) It couldn’t possibly be 1 year ago that I packed away those ornaments, but it was. Where did the year go, and how did that much time just speed by me?
I think one of the reasons that children and adults see time so differently is in how each group lives. The kids I know live primarily in the moment, focusing on their current situation. (Anyone who’s heard “I’m hungry!” “I’m tired!” “I’m bored!” can attest to the immediacy of the child’s mind.) Adults live simultaneously in the past, present and future. We take care of our immediate needs in the present, plan for things we’ll need to do in the future, and relive memories of the past (whether good or bad).
I’ve come to believe that focusing on three dimensions takes away from our ability to enjoy the one we’re actually living in, and skewers our sense of time. And with that in mind, I’m planning to take the next couple of weeks as they come. I’m not going to focus on January tasks or February errands. I’m not going to fret about how wonderfully last year’s party went, or wonder whether next week’s will be as fun. I’m just going to enjoy the here and now, and take time as it comes.